The Best Man
By Kristan Higgins
February 26, 2013
Faith Holland is returning to her hometown of Manningsport, New York, after three and a half years in San Francisco. Except for seven brief visits for holidays with her family, Faith hasn’t been back since she left after being jilted literally at the altar when what was supposed to be the perfect wedding of the town’s golden couple turned into a stage for the groom’s coming out of the closet. But her social life in San Francisco has been a series of disasters, Faith’s siblings are convinced their widowed father is about to fall victim to a crass golddigger, and there’s an old stone barn on the family’s property that Faith is itching to turn into a site for weddings and other events. For all these reasons and because she has missed her family and the family vineyard, Faith has come home for a two-month stay, but she never expected Levi Cooper to be the first person she saw upon her return.
Levi has also returned to Manningsport. After a period of distinguished military service, he’s back, serving his hometown as chief of police. Levi and Faith have known each other since they were third graders, but Faith was Princess Super-Cute on the hill, a member of the Holland clan, one of the town's founding families, who had owned the land on which their vineyards stood for generations. Levi was trailer trash, the only son of a hardworking single mother. It was not until their senior year of high school that they were thrown into each other’s company by Jeremy Lyon, a transplanted Californian whose wealthy family owned the vineyards that bordered the Hollands’ land. Jeremy, a big-hearted Mr. Perfect, ignored the class divisions that separated the kids in the trailer park from the kids on the hill and claimed Levi as his best friend. Since Faith and Jeremy were an item almost from the moment he came to her aid during one of her epileptic seizures, Faith and Levi spent a great deal of time in one another’s company, never exactly friends but always uneasily aware of each other.
Eight years after high school graduation, Jeremy had completed medical school, Faith had finished her training as a landscape architect, and the two were about to be married in a wedding all of Manningsport had been anticipating for years. Levi, a decorated soldier on leave for the occasion, was Jeremy’s best man. He was also the one who stopped the wedding and ended Faith’s dreams of the perfect life she and Jeremy would build. Can Faith ever move past that moment? And if she can, can Levi trust her to be the one person he loves who doesn’t leave him?
In The Best Man, Kristan Higgins gives readers a story that combines scenes worth of a twenty-first-century Lucille Ball with scenes that will have readers reaching for a hanky to catch the tears. Faith is a wonderful heroine, funny and flawed and endearing. Levi is a total guy--uncomfortable with emotions (his own and those of others), deeply committed to taking care of problems, and a better man than he himself will ever recognize. These are characters who will engage readers' attention and capture their hearts.
But Higgins gives readers more that a great romance in this book; she gives them a complete world set in a place so real one can see the clouds over the lake and smell the grapes growing on land saturated in family history. Beyond Faith and Levi, Higgins includes a large cast of quirky characters, each of whom possesses a distinct, individual presence. Faith’s large family (three generations of them), Levi’s co-workers, the citizens of Manningsport, Jeremy Lyon, and Blue (There has to be a dog. This is a Kristan Higgins story.)—each adds something special to this book. I fell in love not just with Faith and Levi but also with the place and the people to which they belong. I hope The Best Man is the first in a series because I want to go back to Manningsport.
What’s the last book you read that led you to fall in love not just with the protagonist but with the fictional world he/she inhabits?